Legal Business Blogs

Robert Tchenguiz switches from Shearman to Stephenson Harwood in £300m SFO claim

Property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz has replaced Shearman & Sterling with Stephenson Harwood as his adviser on a high profile lawsuit against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for around £300m.

Stephenson Harwood led by commercial litigation partner Sean Jeffrey is already advising Vincent Tchenguiz in the case, which sees the brothers claim that the agency made serious mistakes in its investigation of their role in the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing, of which they were executives.

The SFO’s investigation led to warrants for a public raid on the Tchenguiz’ properties involving 135 police officers.

However, the investigations were dropped and in judicial review proceedings in 2012, the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files, on the basis that they were improperly obtained.

Both brothers are seeking damages for their loss stemming from the impact of the raids, with Robert Tchenguiz until recently advised by rated Shearman litigation partner Jo Rickard.

Jeffrey is now managing a claim for damages on behalf of both tycoons’ personal interests and their investment vehicles for misfeasance in public office, as well as trespass, wrongful arrest, human rights breaches and malicious prosecution.

In a further development to the legal line up Jeffrey has added Catherine Newman QC of Maitland Chambers to the Tchenguiz brothers list of barristers, which includes Joe Smouha QC of Essex Court Chambers and Alex Bailin QC of Matrix Chambers.

Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton continues to advise the SFO. Earlier this year the SFO, which failed to make a single raid in 2012 following widespread criticism of the Tchenguiz investigation, requested £19m in emergency funding from the Government as it seeks to bankroll the litigation and fund investigations into Libor and Rolls Royce.

The agency last year brought in an additional 10 junior barristers to join the team involved in the defence of the Tchenguiz claim.

Slaughter and May managed the disclosure exercise and a witness statement filed by Slaughters’ dispute resolution partner Jonathan Cotton as part of the pre-trial hearings last year revealed that the SFO spent £118,000 up to 30 April 2013 on the disclosure review.

The SFO’s decision to hire Slaughter and May and apply this level of resource reflects the fact that, if the Tchenguiz brothers win, this will be the biggest single largest payout in the SFO’s 25-year history.

Shearman declined to comment.